August 13, 2022

“In the event you suppose I suck, would you retain it to your self?” Greg Katz sings about 40 seconds into Cheekface’s new album. That gained’t be crucial; the quirky, talky, jubilantly ironic LA trio is getting higher with every launch. They’ve been coming quick, too: Too A lot To Ask, surprise-released immediately, is the band’s third album in simply over three years following 2019’s Remedy Island and 2021’s Emphatically No. Collectively they make up a portrait of an more and more assured unit with a polarizingly distinct viewpoint.

Cheekface are a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, largely due to Katz’s lyrics and vocals. On a purely sonic degree that is eminently approachable music: enjoyable, danceable, no-frills indie rock constructed from little greater than Katz’s guitar, Amanda Tannen’s bass, and Mark “Echo” Edwards’ drums. However these tracks change into the canvas for a nonstop barrage of quotable quips, sculpted into hooky outbursts the place playfulness and sarcasm collide. I think about their stay present is a party-starter. I may also think about some listeners being overwhelmed or irritated by the hyper-referential too-muchness of all of it, which could be very a lot a characteristic and never a bug.

Katz takes large swings. Undeterred by the danger of being cringe, he displays again the absurdities of recent life whereas toggling between indifferent screeds and impassioned howling. He has a method of constructing tongue-in-cheek social criticism really feel like fearless vulnerability, just like the “THIS IS FINE” meme come to life. The truth is, the chorus “All the things is ok!” elements closely into “We Want A Greater Dumpster” — as a result of life has change into much more of a dumpster fireplace — between descriptions of sick folks coughing throughout one another and facetious conspiracy theories about bottled water making you thirsty.

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Katz tends to decorate down even his fellow progressives: “Ask your therapist who you’re gonna vote for.” But he reserves a disarming tenderness for society’s underdogs: “For the rubbish man, election day remains to be rubbish day anyway.” (Each phrases underline how usually politics subtly come to bear on Too A lot To Ask between nods to Tinder and whatnot.) Nonetheless, even when he expresses some type of plainspoken sentiment, it’s normally enmeshed in meme-conversant comedy: “I’m standing within the Wendy’s drive-thru screaming, ‘Fuck all of the transphobes!’” he declares on “Pledge Drive,” earlier than a fuzzy voice replies, “Sir, it is a Wendy’s.”

Though talk-singing has been fashionable for just a few years now, Katz’s sprechgesang isn’t all that congruent with critically acclaimed UK teams like Dry Cleansing and Squid. Cheekface’s closest corollary from throughout the pond might be Sports activities Group or maybe, in case you squint, Moist Leg. However Katz largely calls again to home influences from lengthy earlier than the present zeitgeist, skewering 2020s tradition with a disposition knowledgeable by many years’ price of intelligent, logorrheic indie dudes — guys who are typically A Lot however are largely charming sufficient to tug it off. Surprisingly, he doesn’t a lot remind me of the Maintain Regular’s Craig Finn, the all-time champion of this subject, however the individuals who do come to thoughts are equally large personalities (and private favorites of mine).

James Murphy is one apparent parallel, particularly on “Featured Singer,” a transparent LCD Soundsystem sendup/tribute that lays the cowbell on thick. “I need to be the featured singer on an EDM music,” Katz declares. “Marriage ceremony DJs will cringe when it’s requested/ Spin journal, The Needle Drop, and Reader’s Digest gained’t even evaluation it/ However youngsters will choreograph elaborate dances to my voice on TikTok.” (Later: “Nobody will march to it within the streets on the lookout for a brighter day/ However ukulele covers of it’s going to crowd your YouTube strategies.”) The Dismemberment Plan’s Travis Morrison additionally looms massive — that puckish posture that doesn’t even faux to include the nervousness crackling beneath the floor — notably on the tight, ethereal groove of nearer “Vegan Water.” At his most droll, he can resemble Stephen Malkmus; at his most hyperactive, he blasts off like Jeff Rosenstock. Early post-punk and new wave touchstones like Jonathan Richman, Devo, and the B-52’s come to thoughts.

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As a result of Katz so usually talks reasonably than sings, it may be straightforward to overlook how good he’s with melody — or it would be exhausting to overlook if he didn’t begin his album by wailing strains as loud and catchy as “Life fingers you issues, make problemade!” Generally that musicality redeems a few of his much less compelling lyrical turns; “I’m on the Jamba Juice/ I’m on the therapist/ I’m on the mixture Jamba Juice and therapist” doesn’t land, however the ensuing hook “Why do I really feel so bizarre?” positive does. The 2 approaches pleasingly converge on “You At all times Need To Bomb The Center East,” the place Katz infuses a supremely wordy refrain with hip-swiveling surf-rock tunefulness: “You all the time need to bomb the Center East on the weekend/ After we may very well be slicing grass or consuming cheese together with your girlfriend/ We might study to learn and write in Portuguese or Korean/ However you all the time need to bomb the Center East.”

Cheekface are extra versatile than you may count on, be it the slicing Tv guitar motion on tracks like “Pledge Drive” and “Subsequent To Me (Yo Man Model)” or the chilled-out anorak vibes of the Sidney Gish collab “Election Day.” However even when the keyboard pumps stunning heat into the groove on “Vegan Water,” Katz’s spiels steal the highlight. “My mind’s fully full,” he declares on that one, and who might doubt him? “I can do no fallacious,” he continues — a much less plausible sentiment, delivered in jest like so many different Cheekface lyrics. However even when Too A lot To Ask serves up the occasional clunker like “Noodles” (full lyrics: “An enormous cup of noodles/ A large cup of noodles”), at its finest, it’s one of many smartest, most infectious indie rock albums of the 12 months.

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Too A lot To Ask is out now. Buy it right here.

Different albums of observe out this week:

• Calvin Harris’ Funk Wav Bounches Vol 2
• OSEES’ A Foul Kind
• Kal Marks’ My Title Is Hell
• Mud Star’s Open Up That Coronary heart
• TOPS keyboardist Marci’s self-titled debut
• Jennifer Vanilla’s Fortress In The Sky
• Therapeutic Potpourri’s Paradise
• Jay Worthy & Harry Fraud – You Take The Credit score, We’ll Take The Verify
• Mall Seize’s What I Breathe
• The Interrupters’ In The Wild
• Planet Drum’s In The Groove
• T Bone Burnett’s The Invisible Mild: Spells
• Heavy Gus’ Notions
• Neil Younger + Promise Of The Actual’s stay album and live performance movie Noise & Flowers
• Eminem’s late-career best hits assortment Curtain Name 2
• The star-studded compilation One thing Borrowed, One thing New: A Tribute To John Anderson
• Bobby Shmurda’s BodBoy EP
• Jacob Sartorius’ SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD EP